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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will conduct a week-long airflow study, starting today, in portions of the New York City subway system to gather data on the behavior of airborne particles in the event contaminants were released. S&T says that the study will use only inert particle tracers, or harmless, non-toxic, inert gases, and results from the tests will be used to validate airflow and transport models for the subway environment.

“This study is part of the Department’s ongoing commitment to preparedness and the shared responsibility of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure,” said DHS S&T Program Manager Dr. Donald Bansleben. “The results of this study will provide us with a greater understanding of airflow characteristics, informing the research and development of next generation systems that continue to ensure the safety and security of the general public.”

Homeland Security News Wire reports that there will be a single twenty-minutes release period of tracers in multiple stations, and daily release locations over the course of the week will include any two of the following stations: Grand Central, Times Square and Penn Station. Air sampling will occur in approximately fifty-five subway stations around Manhattan over a four-hour window following these tracer releases. During the test period, commuters and travelers may see equipment, or experimenters in regular clothes, safety vests and badges but there is no risk to the general public.

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority continues to be an active partner in safeguarding the New York City subway system and this study will generate valuable information on protecting against airborne contaminants,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “These inert gases are safe for our customers and employees, and the entire test will be performed with no impact on them and no interruption to service. We are fully committed to keeping our nearly six million daily subway customers safe and secure, and this test will bolster the MTA and our partners’ ability to protect them and the city at large.”